UN Uses VR to Solve Real World Problems

In January of 2015, the United Nations initiated a plan to utilize the growing access and understanding of virtual reality so that people could experience firsthand the plight and stories of the disadvantaged. Currently, United Nations Virtual Reality (UNVR) has documented and publicly shared the stories of activists in third world countries, indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest, children and adolescents living in impoverished countries, and Syrian refugees. Now, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Action Campaign is trying to raise money and resources to further expand this program.

UNVR has the goal to heighten empathy and compassion for the disadvantaged around the world, therefore increasing charity and aid to these people. For example, UNVR can give every American citizen an uncanny understanding of lives we might never see. These “firsthand” encounters can show people problems they might prefer to ignore and, as a result, increase the amount of government or charity aid needy countries and people receive.

Another potential benefit is an increase in government and corporate transparency. By “living” in the stories of other people, world citizens could see the true actions of governments and corporations and the effects of such actions across the world, leading to greater accountability.

Lastly, UNVR could also benefit our classrooms. The VR experience could offer students an unparalleled understanding of different cultures and world issues, resulting in more tolerant and understanding generations.

Unfortunately, as with anything, the UNVR program has a chance of being corrupted. It could be manipulated to show some stories while purposely or systemically hiding others. There are also privacy concerns, as some people do not want others to be able to see into their lives. Despite these concerns, the UN is moving forward with development of their UNVR program, believing the benefits will outweigh any disadvantages.

Virtual reality is a new and versatile technology that can be used in many ways, and the UN is taking advantage of this. UNVR has the power to revolutionize charity, education, corporate and government accountability, and the lives of the needy. Even if UNVR fails to live up to this potential, it will undoubtedly change the way people see the world.